We were interviewed by the lovely Andy Polaine for his Designer’s Review of Books site a few months ago. His questions really made us think and reflect on the journey we took when we started the Design Transitions book. You can read the full interview here, but we thought it would be nice to pull out some excerpts that came out of the interview that really captured our thoughts and views emerging from the book.
What drove you to write the book?
Joyce: Ultimately, for me, curiosity that was the main driver. I wanted to know what these interesting and innovative designers are doing and how they are doing it. Writing a book was the perfect excuse to talk to these people.’
Emma: After I had completed my PhD I took a trip to London, where I came across different design companies and realised their practices were always in transition: change was a constant for them…Although I was unsure of how, or if, we could capture the way design is changing, I knew that a book on this topic would be extremely valuable to the design industry.
Lauren: I wrote my PhD on the different and changing role of the designer. The idea of transition and change could not have been more poignant for the design industry at the time of researching and writing our book. We try to capture and then distill what is happening and where this could be leading design in the future.
How did we manage the writing process?
Joyce: We divided up the tasks fairly equally. Each of us had our own contacts through our various networks, which we followed up. Usually the person who did the interview was tasked with writing up the case study – this made the most sense, since that person would have a better understanding of the conversations that took place and would be able to best interpret what was said. Prior to starting the writing, we discussed and agreed on some basic editing principles.
Lauren: This is an interesting question. I live in Australia and Joyce and Emma are based in the UK. Joyce project managed the process of researching and writing the book and her dedication to this management is something that I am still in awe of. Emma was very much ‘out there’ identifying and meeting designers and design companies on her Walkabout and attempting to interview them in person as we did many interviews over Skype. I felt my role came very much in the editing of the case studies – putting together these wonderful stories, drawing out the key insights and keeping that voice of the designer in the text.
You have grouped the book into three sections: Changing Practices, New Territories and Viewpoints. How and why did you decide to categorise the other sections?
Joyce: When we made our shortlist of companies we wanted to talk to, it included not only practices that considered themselves to be ‘design-led’ but also practices that were looking to adopt design-led approaches in the way they work. We felt that it was important to include these organisations, even if they did not necessarily fit into our central thesis of ‘how a designer’s practice is changing’. In reality, as Emma and Lauren mention below, the shape and content of the New Territories section emerged during the research for the book. We also felt that showcasing these examples would offer evidence of where and how the discipline is expanding, and how non-designers are appropriating its practices, tools and approaches.
Emma: The New Territories section actually emerged during the writing of the book. As my Walkabout took me through both developed and emerging markets, I saw so much interest from both designers and business professionals as to how design was changing and merging with other sectors. To be honest I think we’ve only just skimmed the surface in this section.
Lauren: Changing Practices is obviously the focal point of the original intention of the book – to look at how design practice is changing. Viewpoints was an equally important section that asked academics and commentators to share general observations and paint a broad overview of the design discipline and industry to identify its current position and help signpost the future….The New Territories was of special interest to us to see this different engagement model used by client or non-design organisations and designers. We had many questions for how design practice was being played out in such a context and we captured so many great insights by pursuing New Territories.
The challenge of documenting and presenting difference facets to the transitions
Joyce: Yes, there was certainly a danger that everyone we spoke to could have come back to us saying the same things – and trends did emerge throughout the case studies. What was more interesting was to find out how these designers work, transform and reinvent themselves in response to external forces.
Emma: When we started Design Transitions in 2011, we were confident that design was now moving in many directions across the globe and that whatever was revealed through the stories we captured, be they differences or common themes, they would be of real value to industry.
Lauren: Our aim to draw out the voice of the designer or design practice through the writing has hopefully conveyed the genuine personalities of the people we interviewed. Even if they did use similar language or token phases, the combination of their context, clients, projects, brand and individual and organisational personalities hopefully made each story unique.
Do you have asense of where design will end up? Is there an end destination?
Joyce: In the shorter term there will be a greater proliferation of different ‘types’ of design and designers, and I would hope that the public discourse about design will also move towards a balance in bringing these types of design to the surface. So yes, we still will talk about chairs, and designers will continue to design chairs (a few less, I hope!) – but the general discourse should be more about the role of design in these new areas, such as in service design, social innovation projects and organisational change.
Emma: Joyce and I recently ran a workshop with IXDA Oslo to kick-start their redesign of the User Experience educational pathway in Norway. While we were there we visited a design museum which had, just, too many chairs! Chairs from the last 100 years. I don’t know what the future of design will be, but I wonder what the future design museums and magazines will look like. I hope they will feature the people that are developing design practices in new sectors. More and more people are reaching out to me to help them transition into design.
Lauren: I think it is important to note that our book helps signpost what the future of design could look like. It doesn’t tell us exactly what this future will be because design operates in context, and the context of each country, each location, is so different and because of this the interpretation and progress of design is going to vary globally. Having lived between the UK and Australia, there is a difference in how design is perceived, valued, procured and used. There are many similarities, but also many differences. The future of design will most likely play out quite differently depending on where you are living and working in the world.